sunnyboys - The I-94 Bar
As they were in 1981. Catherine Croll photo
In 2012, a reformed Sunnyboys delivered arguably the most emotional comeback of any Australian band in living memory. More on that soon. Three years later, they’ve given us the most unlikely of resurrected albums, with a stunning re-issue of their second record, “Individuals”.
Originally released in May 1982 when the band was poised to take the Australian charts by the throat, it sold respectably but ultimately foundered under the weight of massive expectations and a curiously subdued mix.
The discovery of a previously lost rough mix among the estate of their late producer and manager (as well as legendary guitarist), Lobby Loyde, cast a new light on a largely overlooked record. The new version sounds as lively and dynamic as the band’s “Sunnyboys” debut from 1980.
It’s time to kiss and make up. When “Individuals” was released back in 1982, as a follow-up to the Sunnyboys’ barnstorming eponymous debut, it was justifiably unloved by many.
The songs were…good…but slower. Its lead-off single, the curious “This Is Real”, was stilted and a million miles removed from the infectious “Happy Man” and “Alone With You”. The biggest drawback, however, was the record’s lifeless production which reduced the sound of the Sunnyboys to an empty husk. It lacked warmth and sounded distant.
Jeff Sullivan and Julie Mostyn. Steve Teece photo
The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using. It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.
Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.
“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.
“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”
Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.
More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.
Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs.
There are obvious life lessons in the saga of the Sunnyboys and they’ve been related so many times that they probably don’t bear repetition here. If you’re a fan, you’ll know them all anyway (the results of crashing and burning, the enduring nature of brotherly bonds, the power of redemptive love.) If you’re not, you can wise up, musically speaking, with this collection.
It came out with bugger-all fanfare five months ago, to coincide with the band’s one-off Sydney reformation on a Sunnyboys undercard, so it’s high time this one was passed around the I-94 Bar for a critique.
You might know the back story but too bad: Shy Impostors were fronted by uber talented vocalist Penny Ward and contained future Sunnyboys Peter Oxley and Richard Burgman, plus Michael Charles, who would go on to the Lipstick Killers and Screaming Tribesmen. Not much shyness about that lot and no impostors among them.
A slew of previously unheard tracks from short-burning but bright Sydney band Shy Impostors is about to be released on Citadel Records, to coincide with the band playing a one-off reunion in support of the Sunnyboys’ Sydney show on February 4.You can pre-order your copy here.
Shy Impostors were active in 1979-80 and their ranks included future Sunnyboys Richard Burgman and Peter Oxley. Fronted by singer-songwriter Penny Ward and also featuring drummer Michael Charles (Lipstick Killers, Screaming Tribesmen, Mick Medew & The Mesmerisers), they played infectious, raucous and melodic pop music.
In February of 1980 the band recorded seven songs at Palm Studios, Sydney. Two of these tracks, “At The Barrier” b/w “Seein' Double”, were posthumously released late in 1980 on Sydney's Phantom label. The other five languished in the vaults.
During 2016 all seven tracks were restored from original master tapes and mixed by producer Jason Blackwell. The resulting self-titled CD is a long overdue retrospective giving yet another intriguing insight into the formative years of Sydney's post Radio Birdman indie music explosion.
Captain Fast (P Ward) (3:08 m:s)
At The Barrier (P Ward) (2:57 m:s)
When Night Comes In (P Ward) (3:22 m:s)
Sweet Defender (P Ward) (1:55 m:s)
My Sin Is My Pride (The Astronauts) (2:32 m:s)
She Can't Win (P Ward) (2:31 m:s)
Seein' Double (P Ward/M Charles) (3:32 m:s)
Comeback kings the Sunnyboys have announced a full-blown Aussie summer tour, along with deluxe releases of their second and third studio albums.
The 2015 tour will include shows in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide plus a slot at the Perth International Arts Festival, just the second Sunnyboys appearance in the W.A. capital since 1984.
Brisbane and Sydney will be treated to appearances by their former sparring partners, the Riptides. Other guests on the February tour include The New Christs (Melbourne and Sydney) young punks Bad // Dreems (Adelaide) and Dom Mariani's post-Stems vehicle DM3, in Perth.
Without resorting to hyperbole, the definitive version of the debut album for Sydney’s esteemed Sunnyboys sounds fresher than the day it came out. The original 12 songs are coupled with seven early B-sides and live cuts but the revelation is in the bonus disc of 17 sparkling demo tracks, many of them previously unissued.
- Jeremy Oxley greets the crowd.
- Peter Oxley in the moment.
- Richard Burgman and Jeremy Oxley carve it up.
- Jeremy in characteristic pose.
- Jeremy Oxley.
- Peter Oxley on bass.
- Richard can't suppress his joy. A Happy Man.
- Richard eggs on Jeremy.
- Big Bil Bilson.
- Heart and soul.
- The melodic bass-lines of Peter Oxley.
- Dom Mariani of The Stems
- David Shaw on the drums
- Dom fires up
- Newest Stem Ash Naylor
- Dom Mariani
- "Hey you in the black shirt..."
- Sometimes high notes hurt
- Dom in the zone
March 29, 2014
Murray Bennett photo
I set out this afternoon towards the Enmore Theatre with every intention of taking some notes, keeping a rundown of the songs, and trying to come up with the sort of review that some people actually get paid to write.
Unfortunately, this grand plan fell apart by the time I’d been at the Warren View Hotel for an hour and met 26 (yes, I counted them) people I knew and ended up in more shouts than it was feasible to manage. Coopers Red is a great beer but a lousy friend when you’re trying to make a plan come together.
By the time I got to Phoenix (or at least the Enmore) it was 7.15pm, the Shy Impostors had just come on stage, and I was carrying enough Red on board to ensure that an in-depth profound analysis of the gig was as unlikely as AC/DC inviting Dave Evans back into the fold. So you’ll have to put up with this instead.
Four years into their re-birth, Australian pop-rock champions the Sunnyboys are unleashing a live album on CD. “Best Seat In The House” was recorded at Enmore Theatre in March 2015 and will be released on February 27 through Feel Presents and Inertia.
You can read our live review here but rest assured that the band was in blistering form, playing with as much energy and vitality as they did in their first life more than 30 years ago.
Tracks include live favourites “Tunnel Of Love”, “I’m Shakin’” and “The Seeker” plus the hits “Happy Man”, “Show Me Some Discipline”, “You Need A Friend” and “Alone With You”.
The first of a series of what will hopefully be a series of archival editions hits the streets in March with the re-release of the Sunnyboys’ 1981 debut album in dramatically expanded form.
Thirty-five years ago, Sydney's Sunnyboys released their eponymous debut LP. Containing the hit singles “Happy Man” and “Alone With You”, the album enraptured teenagers of the time (and generations to come) with an astute blend of hi-energy, pop hooks and brooding, longing wordplay.
In celebration of the album milestone and the premiere period from when it sprang, Sunnyboys will take to the stage in February 2017 for a handful of shows playing a set entirely derived from 1981; a set that will also include Sunnyboys, the album, performed in its entirety.
For Sydney fans there will be the added bonus of seeing Sunnyboys 1981 gigging partners Flaming Hands – featuring singer Julie Mostyn and songwriter Jeff Sullivan – performing their stripped back blend of ’60s style soul, R&B and psychedelia for first show since 1985!
Joining them on this momentous Sydney line-up will be legendary Sydney act Shy Impostors. Fronted by singer/songwriter Penny Ward and featuring the pre-Sunnyboys Peter Oxley and Richard Burgman alongside drummer Michael Charles, Shy Impostors existed for just nine months during 1979-80 and releasing one (great) record only; the posthumous “At The Barrier” single in 1981.
The Sunnyboys and Riptides show at Brisbane's Tivoli has completely sold-out. Due to this clearly overwhelming demand, both bands have agreed to a second Brisbane show, this time at the city's latest hot-spot, the all-new The Triffid, in Newstead on Thursday 12th March.
Tickets for this inspired pairing go on-sale on Friday from www.thetriffid.com.au or www.feelpresents.com and all OzTix outlets.
Australia's iconic Sunnyboys love a party and they're inviting their fans to one on October 8 with a one-off gig in hometown Sydney.
Wednesday, October 8 at The Factory Theatre is where you'll need to be. It is a limited capacity event and tickets will sell fast.
To ensure your best chance to secure a ticket all you need do is sign up to the mailing list for promoters Feel Presents. The link is here. You'll receive an email on Friday, August 15 with the final ticketing details.
And so the return, and rise, of the Sunnyboys continues. If you said they could top this one, you’d need to back it up.
They billed themselves as Kids in Dust when they stepped back onto a stage for the first time in 21 years at the Dig It Up festival in Sydney on April 24, 2012. The nom de plume was supposedly to avoid performance anxiety or to ramp down expectations, maybe both. It didn’t matter; any tentativeness was swamped by a roomful of love.
Nor were there any misgivings in evidence at the same packed venue, the Enmore Theatre, last Saturday night. Just an irresistible king-tide of energy and good spirit.
They really are unstoppable and they shouldn’t be. Not at this stage of the game. Their goals might be modest - to have a good time reprising their own past, in the hope that you will too - but that doesn’t underplay how good the reincarnated Sunnyboys are on “Best Seat In The House”.
It’s officially their second live album but really their third (1993’s rough and ready “Shakin’” on Phantom seems to have been disowned) and it perfectly captures the band in all their pop-rock glory, playing the final gig on a mostly sold-out Australian run in March 2015.
Photos by Emmy Etie
Enmore Theatre - March 29, 2014
Richard Burgman was adamant when he bounced up to the microphone before a note was played and declared that the Sydney show would be the Sunnyboys' last. Who could blame him if he meant their final gig ever rather than the end of the tour. Informed sources say it's not the case and that the Sunnyboys will live on.
This record is so smart it should have lifetime membership of Mensa, but its a cleverness that's never snobbish or intellectual. Mr Flabio sits back, tongue in cheek and pen at the ready, and takes aim at the directionless, the Interwebs generation and yes, you and me, with withering accuracy. This is melodic fuzz guitars played at stun volume and Mr Flabio’s sardonic barbs are meted out with sugar hits embedded in their pop hooks.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: “We Will Riot” is a grunge record. It’s just gone 2015 and someone is actually making a grunge record? What the fuck’s grunge anyway? You expected Silverchair with short hair? Nirvana wearing nursing home pyjamas?
Mudhoney says Kim Salmon invented it and who are we to argue? When you got down to it, grunge was really just a bunch of tuned-down metallised guitars and anguished punk rock vocals with shithouse dress sense. It got the major labels a little too excited and wiped the musical landscape clean for any other form of rock and roll – and not necessarily in a good way.
In days to come, when rock and roll has finally been relegated to the cultural nursing home to be read its last rites. It'll be a nice room with dappled sun, shared with other old cogders like Jazz and Rolling Stone magazine.
People will reflect that some of its best times were in Sydney in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. They’ll also realise how good things were, and how easily they slipped away.
This wasn’t going to be one of those high faultin’ essays on the fragility of cultural scenes and the futility of trying to recapture them (because, you know, things can never be like they were.) About how you can’t put your arms around a memory. Telling you: Don’t Look Back. But a story "angle" can just happen.
Sometimes we try to bury nostalgia or pretend it’s not a valid thing. It’s so easy to hope you die before you get old when you’re in the full flourish of indestructible youth…and then you want to take it all back when you realise that the future's not so much uncertain and the end is increasingly near.
So let’s make the observation that if nostalgia isn’t so much the elephant in the room at the Enmore Theatre tonight then it’s taking up much of the available space in the foyer. And that's fine. More than ever, with so many people who were influential in rock and roll dropping off the twig. We all crap on about how bad 2016 was for that sort of thing but of course it's only going to get worse.
Right: Sluggo from Flaming Hands under the Enmore lights. Shona Ross photo